Dave Gairn gets ready to apply fend number 2
Be in no doubt, a trip to Zayed Sports City to play Abu Dhabi Harlequins in the UAE Premiership is a very tough undertaking. You’re going to be in for an extremely physical contest. After the Exiles‘ opening 91 – 0 blowout win over the Dubai Tigers, which was more like an exhibition boxing match between Iron Mike Tyson and Choo-Choo from Top Cat, competitive, 15-a-Side, rugby returned to the UAE this weekend with a vengeance.
Lukas Waddington squints in the Abu Dhabi sunshine
Jaen Botes studies some ‘strictly’ feet
The arm wrestle was apparent from the very beginning. You’d be forgiven for accusing the Exiles of enjoying the arm wrestle too much. In the opening twenty minutes of the game, time and time again, the Exiles turned down overlaps and opportunities out wide to open the scoring..
Stephen ‘Stavo’ Ferguson enjoys a physical game
Gareth Bacon watches proceedings
It was in fact, Abu Dhabi Harlequins, who opened the scoring. A penalty from the Exiles‘ 10m line from the impressive Abu Dhabi fullback. It wasn’t long after that the Dubai Exiles replied, playing into the sunshine, the Exiles finally released their backline, and off a first phase set play, Schalk Du Preez crossed for the first try of the match, converted by Justin Walsh, 3 – 7 to the Exiles.
Schalk Du Preez is a prolific try scorer
Conor Kennedy congratulates Schalk Du Preez
The unnecessary arm wrestle continued. Every so often some play would break out, much to the delight of the gathered spectators on the Abu Dhabi pitch-side bank. However, it was the visiting Dubai Exiles that grabbed the next score. Anthony Capp managed to drive himself over from short range – moving the scoreboard to 3 – 12.
Justin Walsh lines up a conversion
Alex ‘Fozzy’ Fowler winds his pass up
The Dubai Exiles had the final word of the first half. A lazy infringement from the Harlequins left the door open for Justin Walsh to take advantage and another 3 points were added to the Exiles‘ tally. 3 – 15 at half time.
With Halloween not far away, Matt Mills and the Abu Dhabi number 7 practice their famous ‘headless horseman’ routine
Leading by 15 points to 3, you’d have been forgiven for expecting the Exiles to start to turn the screw on their opponents, but Abu Dhabi Harlequins were having none of it. Within the opening few minutes, Abu Dhabi opened the second half scoring with a long range penalty – their fullback had certainly brought his kicking boots with him for this evening. A couple more minutes, another penalty, another 3 points. A few more minutes, another penalty, another three points.The Dubai Exiles had slipped into disarray and were gifting possession and the lead away. There was a little rest bite when the Exiles kicked a penalty of their own, but at 12 – 18, Abu Dhabi were beginning to choke the life out of the visitors.
The big moment came with 15 minutes left on the clock. Abu Dhabi, while being physically imposing hadn’t really created any scoring chances. Most of their points had been inexplicably and generously donated to them by the men in black. Another series of penalties and the Harlequins had manoeuvred themselves to a line out on the Exiles‘ 5m line – when the throw came, the Abu Dhabi outfit gladly took their opportunity, however, the conversion was missed and it was 17 – 18 to Exiles, who were hanging on by their fingernails.
Michael Stubbs is a nuisance for most defences
Referee, Simon Dodd, points the way
At this point the whole of Abu Dhabi seemed to have their tails up. The Exiles‘ bench had gone quiet and the only voice coming from any Exiles‘ direction was that of coach Jacques Benade, who’s frustration was apparent to all. Some fresh legs were introduced, notably in the form of teenage scrum half Victor Pereira. The fresh legs just picked up the speed of the breakdowns on what was an energy sapping evening on an unusually heavy pitch, the Dubai Exiles had found a rhythm again. Not the rhythm, just a rhythm.
With 8 minutes left on the clock, that rhythm sent Justin Walsh cross the try line, Exiles were up by 6 points, 17 – 23. The clock was against the hosts and they looked visibly deflated. With just a couple of minutes remaining, a breakdown penalty in the Abu Dhabi 22 gave the Exiles a kick to take them two scores ahead, and in all likelihood, guarantee the win.
Fullback Conor Kennedy stepped up and coolly slotted the three points. The Exiles had shown glimpses of the form that had helped them dismantle the Dubai Tigers the week before, but a humid evening in Abu Dhabi, on an unusually heavy and wet pitch, had dragged them into a dogfight – a dogfight that ultimately they won.
Final Score: Abu Dhabi Harlequins 17 – Dubai Exiles RFC 26
Hooker, Dave Gairn, celebrates with teenage scrum half Victor Pereira
Kenyan, Brad Owako, will have given his opposite number the night terrors
Prop, Pieter Kilian, led the Exiles to a tough victory
Justin Walsh, Alex ‘Fozzy’ Fowler, and Michael Stubbs – all smiles at the end
Abu Dhabi Harlequins
|Jaen Botes||Number Eight||0||0||0||0|
|Schalk Du Preez||Wing||1||0||0||0|
DUBAI EXILES RFC V ABU DHABI HARLEQUINS
UAE Premiership (8th October 2021)